This June 12-16, I’ll be teaching a one-week intensive online poetry workshop for the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA, titled WHEN LANGUAGE IS THE ARTIST’S MATERIAL: THE POET’S PALETTE. For a 15% discount, add “ZUZGA” when registering.
“What exactly is it that poets do with language, or, rather, what opportunities for creation and effects does language afford? We’ll work to get a concrete feel for language as one possible art-making material among others such as paint, or stone and chisel. This workshop will refresh your relationship with language and also get your hands dirty as we engage in serious investigatory play, tussling with the properties and effects of letters, words, syntax, metaphor, page and voice.”
Lemon writes, “…I love Heat Wake because of the many ways it loves…Heat Wake is filled with wondrous poems that speak directly about love/being love/the misfirings of love, but there is so much more adoration in this collection. These poems love language and verbal play, the panoramic intellect, humor, moments of doomsaying and this complex and fractured world that is slipping through our hands. I’ve spent hours with the many lenses through which we see Eros in Zuzga’s book: the speaker addressing Rimbaud in ‘Homage,”’the sensuality of cleaning someone’s ear in ‘Ear,’ or ‘I was angry at myself for being a teenage mermaid,’ the awesome beginning to the Tilt-A-Whirl movement of ‘Love Poem,’ or one of my favorite’s, the speaker alive beside a [queer] intimate inside the body of an extinct Stellar’s Sea Cow in ‘Extinction Narrative…’ Heat Wake is one of those rare books that works in manifold ways—it gives to the reader, on every level—it is energizing, alive and deeply layered with knowledge and sensuous. This collection thinks and breathes in ways that make impossible not to feel, impossible not to read a poem and smile or sense the start of something burning in the chest.”
Saturnalia Books, 2016
Full Disclosure: Jason Zuzga is a friend of mine, but I have no connection to Saturnalia books.
It is such a pleasure to finally see a Jason Zuzga book in print. To say this book has been long-awaited by many, many poets is an under, understatement. I was in grad school with Jason in Tucson, 2001. I loved his work back then; everyone did. I don’t know why this collection took so long to bring into the world. Maybe Jason wasn’t submitting enough. Maybe presses couldn’t see what a wild, original, talented mind this guy has. Or maybe the book just took this long to come to its final form. I’m hardly one to talk about publishing slowly.
Anyway, it’s here now and it’s really good.
Heat Wake is everything I am excited about in poetry now. The poems feel odd as the spores on a fern plant at one moment and polished as a limousine the next. You just have no idea where he might go next in such a delightful way. And it always works because the poems are extensions of life and personality more than exercises in craft (though they are also very skillful). I guess what I’m trying to say is that they’re not trying to be something. They are that thing. That is Zuzga’s mind. There are fun, wild associative leaping and tender personal moments, history and science; and everything odd seems personal and everything personal odd. And there is a closeness and humanity to it all underneath. Quoting lines don’t do his work justice, so I’m just going to quote a whole poem here.
Your Age on Other Worlds
Greased surfers on the right,
oil pumping up the left – you drive down the crease
of California as the convexities of boys become
heightened on the waves.
I will guess your age on other worlds.
Stretched into sixteen on all of them. Mine.
When Neptune hurls back around to where it is now
these boys will be decaying
not tucked into their skins not tucked into their wetsuits
not sixteen not alive not riding the waves off California
rubbing itself the way a back shifts.
One night one boy is hurling through time to
the instant he will pass you in the supermarket.
His liverspotted hand a vortex shoves you through
gliding up the crest of time to California.
The pumpers suck sweet sip of time’s decay.
The car drives past you down the crease burning rubber.
The oncoming night glides open and closes and pulses.
Observers lightyears away longingly watch wave
lift you. Look back now to where we were before
this got started – star collapsing,
insane and greedy in the dark.
I mean who does this! Who connects time travel and the sleek bodies of surfers and drive down the coast in such a strange and beautiful way? This collection gets me really pumped about poetry again. Seriously, I would trade this one poem for a dozen other full collections I have read in the past year.
I could go on and on about all the poems in this collection, but this collection makes you want to write your own poems because it just humms with an infectious vitality. So, just use your internets and order it now. You must have it in your life and on your shelf.
In the window, in good company….
The first review of Heat Wake, from Publishers Weekly, is in…. read it here and below…
Zuzga’s debut collection grows out of the intersection of myth and nature, like a simmering volcano of animal intensity that occasionally erupts in expressions that alternate between euphoria and lament. He establishes this strange amalgam from the opening lines of the first poem: “All rocks are queer. By this I mean/ I’m gay.” In “Love Poem,” Zuzga recalls a melancholic youth in the dark shadow of an emerging queer identity (“I was angry at myself for being a teenaged mermaid”) and tinges of this same sadness appear at other moments in the collection. “I may have exceeded the number of allowable/ falls-in-love,” he sighs. Animals appear everywhere, including bats, sharks, “hot deer,” and an extinct Steller’s Sea Cow that munches “on sea lettuce the color/ of absinthe.” Zuzga also meditates on the distinctions between human and nonhuman animal as scientists observe an array of marine life. In the title poem, he gets futuristic, imagining the cyborg “not-yet elephants of Mars.” The book’s third section (of six), “Electric Clocks Don’t Tick,” revolves around Zuzga’s suburban New Jersey childhood and features Aunt Dottie’s “sun tea,” adventures with Encyclopedia Brown, and a surprisingly tender bathroom inventory. These gentle touches bloom all the more brightly under Zuzga’s zoological bell jar, placing a real human heartbeat in the menagerie. (Mar.)
Heat Wake was published by Saturnalia Books on March 15, 2016.
The cover image has been created specifically for the book by artist Jim Drain.
Here are some early takes on the book….
“Charming, witty, and science-y smart, these debut collection poems pop with volleys of youthful and wise acts, tactics, maneuvers, catastrophes, scenes, and did I mention love poems overrunning! And anthropomorphism at its finest—“The sounds flick off. Please. The desert would like to be alone.” Reader, you won’t be lonely in this lively tour of a refreshed world. Thank you, Jason Zuzga, for the language to imagine a benevolent universe.” —Jane Miller, author of Memory at These Speeds: New and Selected Poems and A Palace of Pearls
“Don’t expect to ‘come out’—Zuzga’s closet opens to a queer ocean, and try as we may to grasp at the skeletons we fleetingly see stacked, we fall with him into the unbiographing, inky depths. If he plays with L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, it’s merely an octopus floating by; if conceptualist crimes are committed, Encyclopedia Brown solves the case; whatever happens is what is happening, which happens to be what never happened. Not for sure. Heat Wake: the congregation of company this poet accrues in his many deaths, with each page sizzling as a new bolt of divinely mad lightning strikes him—leaving us with not so much a speaker but a folio record of the sensorial events and animalistic upheavals occasioning him. Impossible as a wave to finish, Heat Wake‘s magic will linger like sand between your toes.” — Andy Emitt, Journalist for Pitchfork
Poem “Hoover Dam” has been published on The Awl.
Poem “Your Age on Other Worlds” has just been published on Sixth Finch.
Poems “Northeast Corridor” and “The Blazes” has been published in the current issue of the White Wall Review.
More news to come!